Chris Kreider doesn’t have to be a difference maker at this stage of his career even if that would be a nice bonus. What he needs to do is be able to add depth to the forwards and help Tortorella roll line after line and add his speed to the mix. Brian Boyle is exhibit A of how in the playoffs it’s often the depth that wins games and scores the big goals.
There will be plenty of games when the likes of Marian Gaborik get shutdown. It’s then that the likes of Brian Boyle need to be the difference. That’s why this Rangers team has the chance to go deep; because they have that depth. It’s one of the main reasons the Bruins won the cup last year; behind spectacular goaltending and depth. And we know this Rangers team has goaltending.
In game three, Kreider looked timid at first but grew as the game wore on. His line may have lacked cohesion but right now all Kreider has to do is hold Hagelin’s spot, learn on the fly and not be a liability. Kreider should stay in the line up when Hagelin returns because with both kids in the team and with Gaborik in full flight, there are not many teams that can match this kind of explosive speed up and down a line up.
Kreider should improve as the playoffs continue. Simply through more practice, a longer adjustment period and with fewer nerves (after all, it was his pro debut) Kreider should be able to become a bigger factor. In his 11:11 worth of ice time Kreider got better each shift. That’s no mean feat against a team that threw the kitchen sink at the Rangers towards the end.
Right now perhaps the biggest benefit of Kreider is that he provides realistic depth (sorry John Scott) and a realistic threat to anyone underperforming in regard to becoming a scratch. John Mitchell was pretty solid last night but Kreider should stay in the line-up. So who comes out when Hagelin returns? Fedotenko was solid last night even if he gave up the shot on a two on one. Rupp’s experience is valued and despite speed issues played a solid game also. Kreider highlights the Rangers impressive depth right now, which could be the difference over a playoff series.
The key word throughout this has been depth. Chris Kreider has all the tools to be a star long term. Right now he doesn’t have to be. He needs to be able to contribute whether that’s on the fourth or first line. So despite a solid yet far from spectacular debut let’s not raise the expectation level to unnecessary levels for Kreider and enjoy the benefits his mere presence provide.